Reporter Arrested, Thrown To The Ground For Cursing

from the someone's-about-to-get-a-lesson-in-the-1st-amendment dept

Do the police in Fairfax County, Virginia really not know about the 1st Amendment? It certainly appears that way after watching the video of them violently arresting a reporter named Mike Stark, who was trying to cover the gubernatorial campaign of Ed Gillespie. Now, because some people will want to mention this, I’ll note that the following is (a) true and (b) makes no difference at all to this story: Stark works for a highly partisan website that is strongly opposed to Gillespie. But the points here would be identical if it were a reporter at the other end of the partisan divide following the opposing candidate. The positions of the reporter (or the candidate) are meaningless to the basic question of why the fuck was Mike Stark thrown to the ground, piled on by cops and arrested.

And “fuck” seems to be the key word here. The background is that Stark appeared to be filming Gillespie’s bus, and a police office told him to “get out of the road” (from the video it’s a little unclear, but it really looks like Stark was standing in what appears to be a driveway, not a road). Either way, he backs up a bit and argues a bit with the cop, most of which is impossible to hear. But you can make out him saying “I’m a fucking reporter doing my job.” At that point, another cop says “If you curse again, you’re going to go to jail.” To which, Stark responds in the most responsible manner possible: “Fuck this.” At that point, the one officer points to him and says “Go to jail” and the other moves him up against a fence. The officers appear to have some trouble getting Stark’s hands behind his back, though it does not appear due to Stark resisting, just police officers who don’t appear to be very good at their job. So they just swipe his legs out from under him, throw him to the ground (hitting his head on the pavement) and then a bunch of other officers run over and they all just pile on Stark, who repeatedly says he’ll give them his hands if they just get off him so he can move the arm out.

Eventually, the cop cites Fairfax County Ordinance 511 which does (amazingly) say that “If any person profanely curse or swear or be drunk in public he shall be deemed guilty of a Class 4 misdemeanor.” So that law is on the books — but it’s bullshit. There is no way that such a law is even remotely compatible with the First Amendment. And, of course, when actually charged, Section 511 was nowhere to be found. Instead, the cops charged him with the favorite of police who have arrested someone for no cause: “disorderly conduct” and “resisting arrest.”

This is… bad. It’s a clear First Amendment violation and an attack on a reporter. Others who have been arrested (sometimes on similar charges) for filming in public, have sometimes been successful filing civil rights lawsuits against the cops.

On a separate, but related note, it appears the cops did not realize they were being filmed until towards the end of the video where one of the cops walks over and angrily says to the person holding the camera:

“I’d appreciate it if you didn’t film us. Really would. Ok? This job’s hard enough. Honestly? It’s hard enough.”

Yeah, must be real hard when you get to body slam a reporter for daring to say the word “fuck” and then have to answer to public scrutiny for your thuggish violation of his rights. Real tough job.

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Comments on “Reporter Arrested, Thrown To The Ground For Cursing”

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80 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Hard Jobs

Exactly – one would think leos everywhere would like cameras and videos running to show they are doing their jobs properly.

OTOH – bad cops would not like this at all and they might even rough you up a bit in retaliation for not “doing as yer told”.

That reporter will think twice next time – lol

Bergman (profile) says:

Re: Re: Hard Jobs

For those inclined towards high-risk activism, it might be interesting to have people standing nearby such journalists in the future (or even an agent provocateur working for the activist group) to make a citizen’s arrest of the officers for the felony they commit when they violate constitutional rights.

Granted, it wouldn’t be safe, but if you had enough people in staggered layers, you could in theory take an entire police department into custody this way, 100% legally, as backup keeps showing up to find the previous backup in handcuffs, and attempting to stage an escape from custody in turn.

Any constitutional, civil or statutory rights violation you can win a civil lawsuit over (42 USC 1983) is also a criminal act under 18 USC 242. Every state except North Carolina recognizes citizen’s arrest as valid, and federal law states that anyone who can make arrests for state crimes can also make arrests for federal crimes, though they are not required to. Since federal court doctrine considers possessing a firearm while committing a crime — even if the victim never sees the weapon — to be an armed crime, police almost never commit a misdemeanor 242 violation, it’s nearly always a felony.

Is it likely to result in the police opening fire on the activists? Quite likely. But attempting to murder people for making a lawful arrest in order to free the criminal suspects they have arrested is something it is lawful to shoot the attacker over in 49 out of 50 states.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Hard Jobs

Indeed. If being aware that someone’s recording your job performance makes it harder to do, you’re either not comfortable doing it, or aware that you’re doing something wrong.

Call centre staff have their performance recorded all the time, as do most retail staff to some degree. I would hope that it wouldn’t be a problem for armed public servants to be treated in a similar fashion, since they’re entrusted with a lot more power & responsibility.

Anonymous Coward says:

Every cop knows the job is tough and those who remain as cops implicitly accept that. Having a tough day at work provides exactly zero license to trample someone’s rights. LEOs need to remember they’re public employees, employed to serve and protect… not harass and assault.

Exactly where does our nation’s law enforcement see this current path of aggression ending up? Are they truly surprised the law-abiding public is losing faith in them and starting to see them as the enemy instead of an ally?

Machin Shin says:

Re: Re: Re:

Still holds true though, being a LEO is a hard job. Suck it up or get a different job.

As for this idea that they are there to protect the rich… well any idiot who spends even a short time looking at some history books should find out that is a VERY bad job to take.

There tend to be a lot more of us “poor people” and you can push this group around only so long before they collectively as a group say “fuck this”. What follows is normally not pretty for anyone on the side of the “rich”.

Looking at the headlines and general feeling in this nation…. we are fast headed for the “fuck this” stage of things. Maybe now would be a good time for them to stop pushing around the “poor people”?

Machin Shin says:

Re: Re:

Wait…. What the fuck? You will cut me more slack if I walk around with a gun? I am really confused. I think you broke my logic meter.

Wouldn’t the guy without the gun get greater respect? He was the one brave enough to go out without needing a gun to make him feel safe.

Also on another side note. What the fuck? “When he starts carrying a firearm to do his job, instead of a camera” The guy is a reporter. Please, try and explain to me how a gun is a replacement for a camera. They both “shoot” things, but with really different end results. I really don’t think we want our reporters out shooting guns every time they do a story.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

>> So, just to confirm: your argument is that if you’re not a cop, you have no civil rights? Fascinating.

Sheesh. What the first commenter meant was that just being civil to police isn’t a burden compared to the likelihood of police actually getting shot at while protecting the rights of idiots who despise them.

And, given your description of it, I’d say charges would stick if weren’t a reporter: they’ll use this for a crusade.

Since some seem confused about “arrest”: once told you’re under arrest — even if not deserved — the only lawful option is to do as told, NOT struggle at all. You’ll get your day in court later. Don’t be a hothead.

I recognize that some persons have legitimate problems with “arrest”, but this isn’t one of those case. This reporter made himself the story, period.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Sheesh. What the first commenter meant was that just being civil to police isn’t a burden compared to the likelihood of police actually getting shot at while protecting the rights of idiots who despise them.

If police can’t take someone saying ‘fuck this’ and hurting their feelings then they are more than welcome to get the hell out of such a stressful job and look for one where they don’t have to deal with the public so much, and is perhaps safer. Might I suggest construction? Cattle farming? Perhaps garbageman?

Protecting their rights? Like arresting someone doing his gorram job for talking back to police? Yeah, they seem super concerned about the rights of those around them.

And, given your description of it, I’d say charges would stick if weren’t a reporter: they’ll use this for a crusade.

No need to take his word for it, follow the first link in the article and you can watch the video yourself. I just did and I can attest that he isn’t in the road, they did sweep his legs out from under him causing him to slam into the ground, and they dogpiled on him like a freakin’ football team while at the same time demanding that he put his hands back.

The only way they’d be able to ‘use this for a crusade’ is to try to scare people into submission. ‘Talk back to us, prepare to eat the sidewalk’.

I recognize that some persons have legitimate problems with "arrest", but this isn’t one of those case. This reporter made himself the story, period.

Yes, how dare he say ‘fuck’, that clearly justified a dogpile by incompetents followed by an arrest and the usual bogus charges which might as well be shorthand for ‘contempt of cop’. /s

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

" What the first commenter meant was that just being civil to police isn’t a burden compared to the likelihood of police actually getting shot at while protecting the rights of idiots who despise them."

No, that’s not what the first commenter meant. What he meant, because he stated it quite clearly, is that he thinks the reporter should be throw in jail (after being physically assaulted) for not talking nicely enough.

There is no basis in law or common sense for the officers’ ridiculous over-reaction. If the burden of the (statistically very low) likelihood of being shot at is so great then they should find another damn job.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What the first commenter meant was that just being civil to police isn’t a burden compared to the likelihood of police actually getting shot at while protecting the rights of idiots who despise them.

It is perfectly legal to give the police the middle finger. Ask the police in Saratoga NY about that, but be sure to do it nicely – they don’t like being reminded of it.

If they can’t handle that, or it hurts their feelings, I personally don’t give a shit. If they can’t shake it off, why would I expect them to do anything other than run the other way when faced with a REAL threat?

This reporter made himself the story, period.

Actually, the fuck up of a cop made the reporter the story. The other fuck up who whined about being recorded certainly deserves some credit too.

DOoG says:

Re: Re:

So you’re going to respect bank-robbers, gang-bangers and murderers more than upstanding citizens that are doing nothing wrong?

Glad to know which side of the law you’re on there Bubba Nobrains!

It’s probably a good thing that Dahmer was killed by a fellow-inmate back in ’94, or your fetish over criminals, though he wasn’t a gun-toting type, could have gotten yourself killed.

tom (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I think “Resisting Arrest” is often a CYA charge in case the subject/victim requires medical attention either then or later. If he/she was ‘resisting’, then the injuries obviously occurred during the arrest attempt and are wholly the responsibility of the person being arrested. Otherwise, why is the person the LEO’s were interfacing with covered in injuries? The Resisting charge is often coupled with “Attempting to Flee”. Have seen this done on enough “Cops” shows when all the person did was take a step or two the wrong way or didn’t immediately comply with the cop’s request. And these are arrests they don’t mind being televised.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

For one, watch the video, he wasn’t in the road, at most he(and the cop telling him to ‘stay out of the road’) was in a driveway/cross street that the currently stationary bus might possibly have turned into at some point in the future.

Two, even if he was in the street the fact that you apparently think that would justify getting his ass kicked while getting arrested is disgusting, and a perfect example of the kind of mindset that causes people to distrust and be disgusted by police. Thugs don’t deserve respect, if they can’t do their job in a professional manner and deal with the occasional ‘fuck this‘ then they are quite welcome to quit and let someone more competent and capable replace them. If you’re going to set the bar that low that shouldn’t be very difficult at all.

DB (profile) says:

Re: He wasn't charged with obstructing traffic

If being in the street was the problem, the police would have added on a citation for that.

It seems pretty clear what happened. The police officer was part of the security detail. He was told by someone working for the campaign to harass the reporter. He did. The officer thought that the profanity was a justification to roughly arrest the reporter. Before they filled out the arrest report the officer was told the law was unconstitutional, so they had to substitute ‘disorderly conduct’.

Without the video, the officer’s narrative would stand. Before the age of ubiquitous video cameras I certainly would have believed it. But with the video it’s clear that the police officer was arresting the reporter for a violation of section 511. They needed to substitute a different charge later to justify the arrest. Without a plausible charge — one that wasn’t obviously unconstitutional, the police couldn’t justify the force used during the arrest.

DOoG says:

Law enforcement should be held to a higher standard.

Any law enforcement personnel, local, township, county, state, federal, any whatsoever should be held to a higher standard, with higher penalties.

Basically, what I am saying, because of the powers they wield, literally life and death over non-leos, then they need to be accountable at much higher level.

What would be a 1 year prison term for a non-leo, would be a 10 year term for a leo, because less face it folks, they are the leos, and they damned well know better.

It should also be a one strike you’re out, for life kind of position. Because again, let’s face it, they damned well know better.

McGyver (profile) says:

It’s a very tough job, but you make it tougher for you and your colleagues by eroding the public’s trust.
Respect goes both ways, and the burden of that effort is in law enforcement’s court since they are the ones entrusted to uphold the law and not violate it because they feel pissed off or disrespected.
Yes, they are only human, but law enforcement is held to a higher standard and behavior like this just makes life harder for good cops.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Yes, they are only human, but law enforcement should be held to a higher standard and behavior like this just makes life harder for good cops.

Minor but important correction. They should be held to a higher standard, but pretty much everything I’ve seen demonstrates that they are instead held to a lower standard, given leeway far more and more often than a member of the public with regards to their actions.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Don't want to be watched by the public? Don't take a job involving them in public settings

"I’d appreciate it if you didn’t film us. Really would. Ok? This job’s hard enough. Honestly? It’s hard enough."

The only way I can see the job of a public servant, working in public being ‘harder’ if they are recorded is if they’re doing something they don’t want a third-party record of.

They’re big boys and girls, if they can handle people watching them then they can damn well handling people recording them, and if they really are following the laws they are tasked with enforcing then any recording will simply back them up on that.

Anonymous Coward says:

As a Fairfax county tax payer i would appreciate if the county police force would not make the county liable for Damages in losing civil suits. Officer act like you are always on camera because you probably are.

I want every force to put to put a picture of Alan Funt saying smile you are on Candid Camera on the door out of every locker room.

Anonymous Coward says:

UPDATE: CONVICTED! FINED $500. -- "from the someone's-about-to-get-a-lesson-in-the-1st-amendment dept" -- AND THAT SOMEONE IS YOU!

"A reporter with a liberal media outlet was found guilty of misdemeanor disorderly conduct Tuesday over an October confrontation with police as he was attempting to cover then-Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillepsie."

"Judge Mark Simmons told Stark that officers had given him lots of breaks during the incident, that he went from being a reporter to an actor and had actually sought the confrontation."

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/public-safety/reporter-found-guilty-of-disorderly-conduct-in-clash-with-police-captured-on-video/2018/02/13/aca9c80a-1104-11e8-8ea1-c1d91fcec3fe_story.html

"Stark said he was disappointed with the outcome and was weighing what to do next. I took it to trial believing I had the law on my side, he said. So I’m surprised at the outcome.

So is Techdirt! BUT I’M NOT. Judge said EXACTLY what I did!

Anyhoo: wrong AGAIN, Masnick! You need to get your biases under control.

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